Fall Thru the Cracks Friday – How the Internet Could Fail

We at PLUS blog are pretty dependent on the internet – after all, without it this very blog (and all others) would cease to exist.

But what would happen if the internet failed, and is that even a possibility?

Well, it happened to us for 20 minutes this week and it was terrifying. It turned out to just be a service outage, but since it impacted both our office connectivity and our phone data connections we truly felt isolated. As luck would have it, several minutes after we got back online I came across an article on CNN.com called “Four ways the Internet could go down.”

The article deals with the usual suspects (cyber warfare, political mandates, cutting of cables by accident or with intent) but the one that made me pause related to space weather. From the article:

When a massive solar flare erupts on the sun, it can cause geomagnetic storms on the Earth. The largest solar eruption recorded so far was in 1859. Known as the Carrington flare, it sent telegraph wires across Europe and America into a sparking frenzy.

Since that time, the technology blanketing the planet has changed quite a bit. If we were to get another solar flare of that size now, what would happen? The answer is clear to space physicists and electrical engineers: it would blow out transformers and melt down our computer systems. In a small disruption in 1989, an electromagnetic storm arrested power throughout most of Quebec and halted the Toronto stock market for three hours.

A major solar event could theoretically melt down the whole Internet. What earthquakes, bombs, and terrorism cannot do might be accomplished in moments by a solar corona.

Happy summer!


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About plushq

The Professional Liability Underwriting Society (PLUS) was founded in 1986 by industry professionals who recognized the need for a forum for individuals involved in the field of professional liability. The Society is a non-profit organization with membership open to persons interested in the promotion and development of the professional liability industry. Membership consists of over 6,500 individuals, representing over 1,000 companies active in the many fields of professional liability. PLUS currently receives the support of more than 200 companies through corporate membership. PLUS is recognized as the primary source of professional liability educational programs and seminars, assistance to its members to help serve clients, and information regarding professional liability. The Society is continually seeking new means to fulfill its mission statement and better serve its members.

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